The Nevada attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto has just filed a 606 count indictment against two title officers in a single county, Clark County, for supervising the filing of tens of thousands of fraudulent documents in a robo-signing scheme.
On the one hand, this indictment is not as gratifying, say, as busting Angelo Mozilo. On the other hand, if low level supervisors in bank frauds face the risk of serving time, you are going to find a ton fewer people willing to take that job. Those higher up on the food chain might also have to be a lot more careful and pay the people involved more money, which in turn undermines the basic logic of these abuses, which is cost savings.
In addition, as mob prosecutions have shown again and again, you start by going after the foot soldiers in the hope that they roll people higher up on the food chain.
And at a minimum, this action says that the law and due process matter, and violations, particularly large scale, systematic violations, can and will be punished.
From the press release:
According to the indictment, defendant Gary Trafford, a California resident, is charged with 102 counts of offering false instruments for recording (category C felony); false certification on certain instruments (category D felony); and notarization of the signature of a person not in the presence of a notary public (a gross misdemeanor). The indictment charges defendant Gerri Sheppard, also a California resident, with 100 counts of offering false instruments for recording (category C felony); false certification on certain instruments (category D felony); and notarization of the signature of a person not in the presence of a notary public (a gross misdemeanor)…
The indictment alleges that both defendants directed the fraudulent notarization and filing of documents which were used to initiate foreclosure on local homeowners.
The State alleges that these documents, referred to as Notices of Default, or “NODs”, were prepared locally. The State alleges that the defendants directed employees under their supervision, to forge their names on foreclosure documents, then notarize the signatures they just forged, thereby fraudulently attesting that the defendants actually signed the documents, which was untrue and in violation of State law. The defendants then allegedly directed the employees under their supervision to file the fraudulent documents with the Clark County Recorder’s office, to be used to start foreclosures on homes throughout the County.
The indictment alleges that these crimes were done in secret in order to avoid detection.
The full indictment is here as well as below:
Update: Two sources close to the investigation have told me the targets of the lawsuit are employees of Lender Processing Services. That strongly suggests that Masto is, as we indicated earlier, using these indictments as a wedge to go after much broader abuses in the servicing industry. LPS’s biggest business is its Default Services Group, which both managed the operations of foreclosure mills (people with knowledge of LPS charge that the firm even kicks out certain standard form documents for foreclosure mill attorneys to file) and also often acted as the arms and legs of servicers in other arenas (for instance, managing, or more accurately, mismanaging property seized in foreclosure).
LPS has always taken the position that anything it did was at the direction of and with the full knowledge of the servicers. If Masto is shrewd, her objective will be to audit LPS’s software, since that will demonstrate pattern and practice, and it will be impossible for servicers to deny that processes embodied in ongoing, routinized activities were unknown to them.
Update 12:30 AM: April Charney provided documents that showed that the targets of the suits worked for LPS, but rather than upload them and embed them to convince you, the Wall Street Journal got confirmation from LPS that both are employees